Sunday, January 13, 2008
The Return of Swedish Fun Facts
After enduring a personal trip journey for a few weeks, you deserve a return to some good ol’ Swedish fun facts, so here’s the latest edition of Linköpinglivin’s obscure observations, interesting (sort of) information, curious digressions, brief commentary and quick acknowledgments of all things Sweden that are mostly true, occasionally entertaining and always random:
1) Birthday parties in Sweden are generally planned, hosted and provided by the celebrant, not friends or colleagues. There are, of course, exceptions such as the hallmark birthdays of “0s and 5s,” which are often commemorated in grand style and prepared by the expected number of different people.
2) On that note, each day of the year is also a “Name Day” or namnsdagen. Every day is given a name, usually one male and one female, and though it seems the tradition is passing, people with that name are often acknowledged on this day. Namnsdagen also works its way into various other cultural traditions, such as the Swedish flag is raised when the Name Day is “Carl” because…..
3) Somehow overlooked on Linköpinglivin’ until now is the fact that Sweden is one of just a handful of European countries that still have official royalty. King Carl XVI Gustaf and his German-born wife, Queen Silvia, have three children (Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Philip and Princess Madeline). Victoria, who recently turned 30 years old, will one day be the first Queen of Sweden since 1654 due to a recent change of the law that states the firstborn, male or female, shall inherit the throne. Figureheads who hold no actual power, Swedes generally look upon their royalty with affection and, as expected, gossip newspapers adore each and every move of the royal family…see picture above of the royal family at the annual Nobel ceremony in December.
4) When going to a movie in Sweden, remember that your seat is reserved – we simply will not stand for chaotic seat selection in this country – and your ticket price is based on length of movie (the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean, at three hours, was the equivalent of $18! Ouch.). Swedes pride themselves on not dubbing (just subtitling) their English movies as in France, Germany and Italy, swearing that this is the reason they speak such great English and, after watching dubbed TV throughout Austria and Germany, I would agree that this does make a big difference, especially for children growing up hearing English every day through TV, movies, etc.
5) Chalk another one up for Swedish equality: It is very common for the newly wedded male and female to take her last name, rather than his. Sometimes they will make up or choose another last name entirely.
6) “The Eyes Have It”: The world-renowned, attractive Swede is generally known for her blonde hair however true or not this is, but when visitors come to Sweden, including this long-term visitor, it’s the eyes that leave one speechless…captivating, intoxicating, beautiful (and usually) blue eyes.
7) Sweden etiquette, like most of Europe, demands the Continental Style of holding silverware. Upside-down fork in the left hand and knife in the right. No “cutting and switching” American style. Try it sometime. It’s WAY more comfortable and simple…and, no matter where I live, I will use this manner of utensil-holding the rest of my life. Skål!
8) There are two companies that run overnight boats across the Baltic Sea to Helsinki, Finland and Tallin, Estonia. You hop on the boat in Stockholm in the late afternoon on Friday, cruise all night and pull into one of these two harbors early on Saturday morning, run around a new fun capital city for the day and get back on for an all night ride back to Stockholm, arriving early in the morning on Sunday. Not a bad way to to take less than a weekend, see a new city, experience the Swedish Archipelago islands not once, but twice and meet new people!
9) Something that has received no mention at any time on Linköpinglivin’ is my love for playing basketball. In fact, after a year-and-a-half in Sweden, just this past weekend was the first time I picked up a basketball and played hoops. I made sure to make my first shot in Sweden….
10) And speaking of my length of time in Sweden, my work contract has been extended from June until December. So what was originally “two years” will eventually be two-and-a-half memorable years with the Swedes.
1. The latest view of the Gamla Stan spires rising above Stockholm - this picture taken from a boat crossing Stockholm Harbor.
2. The dessert table at a recent Swedish julbord. Delicious.
3. We've had a few days of higher temperatures and, get this, sunshine (!!) in Sweden this week. For those of you curious, "higher temperatures" means 5 degrees Celsius, about 40 Farenheit. Pleasant...balmy, really.
4. If it's January in Sweden, it means that everyone is wildly anticipating the return of the beloved Semla, a.k.a. cream puff, but as with many things here in Sweden, it's just more than a cream puff...
5. Most of the pictures on Linköpinglivin' are of my own taking, but this one, admittedly, was not me at the Nobel Gala in December. Maybe next year...